Notorious for Intrigue and Murder

Agrippina
R: Enrico Guazzoni. B: Carlo Muccioli Walter Rinaldi. D: Maria Caserini-Gasparini, Adele Bianchi Azzarili, Amleto Novelli, Signora Sturla, Giovanni Dolfini, Cesare Moltini, Carlo Muccioli , Walter Rinaldi. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1911
Dutch titles, Engl. subtitles

“AGRIPPINA, the ‘younger’ (a.d. 16–59), daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina the elder, sister of Caligula and mother of Nero, was born at Oppidum Ubiorum on the Rhine, afterwards named in her honour Colonia Agrippinae (mod. Cologne). Her life was notorious for intrigue and perfidy. By her first husband, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, she was the mother of the emperor Nero; her second husband was Passienus Crispus, whom she was accused of poisoning. Assisted by the influential freedman Pallas, she induced her uncle the emperor Claudius to marry her after the death of Messalina, and adopt the future Nero as heir to the throne in place of Britannicus. Soon afterwards she poisoned Claudius and secured the throne for her son, with the intention of practically ruling on his behalf. Being alarmed at the influence of the freedwoman Acte over Nero, she threatened to support the claims of the rightful heir Britannicus. Nero thereupon murdered the young prince and decided to get rid of his mother. Pretending a reconciliation, he invited her to Baiae, where an attempt was made to drown her on a vessel especially constructed to founder. As this proved a failure, he had her put to death at her country house. Agrippina wrote memoirs of her times, referred to by Tacitus (Ann. iv. 53). Her character is set forth in Racine’s ‘Britannicus’.
Encyclopædia Britannica (1911)

Agrippina 1911

>>> Guazzoni: Dr. Faust and Cajus Julius Caesar and Blockbusters from Italy on this site

Perret’s ‘Le roman d’un mousse’

Le roman d’un mousse
R: Léonce Perret. K: Georges Specht. Ba: Robert-Jules Garnie. D: Adrien Petit, Maurice Luguet, Louis Leubas, Armand Dutertre, Emile André, Armand Numès, Angèle Lérida, Paul Manson. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1913/1914
Print: Archives françaises du film / Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique

“If Feuillade’s Fantômas films remain one of the high points of Gaumont’s production during the 1913 – 1914 season, Perret’s two blockbusters, L’Enfant de Paris and Le roman d’un mousse, certainly constitute another. Both were ‘super-productions’ of eight reels or more, putting them in the same category as Pathé’s Germinal and Film D’Art’s Les Trois Mousquetaires. And both were exhibited as exclusivités on cinema programs, divided into two more or less equal parts by an interval, in a successful attempt to equate them with the theatrical performance of a play. In their choice of subjects, these films combine criminal and detective features of the Zigomar, Main de fer and Fantômas series with others having to do with the bourgeois family of the contemporary melodrama. On the one hand, consequently, they offer excursions through a variety of social and geographical sites, from passing tours of the haut bourgeois playgrounds to ‘slumming’ experiences of the ‘down and out’ margins. On the other, they reintroduce the story of the ‘lost child’ that threatens the very continuance of the bourgeois family as the locus of social value and order. And this re-merging of the two recently divergent genres takes its most explicit shape (…) in the character of the adolescent boy who is at first the crimimals’ victim and then their nemesis as the detective hero.”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. University of California Press 1998, p. 380/81

>>> on this site: Léonce Perret

A Classic “Idora Park Story”

Mabel’s Wilful Way
R: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Mack Sennett. D: Mabel Normand, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Edgar Kennedy, Alice Davenport, Glen Cavender. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1915
Filming Locations: Idora Park – Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California, USA

“This is another movie whose direction seems to be attributed to either Mabel, Mack, or Roscoe, depending on who you ask. (…) Unlike a lot of the other ‘park comedies’ from Keystone (…), this one obviously took place in a location away from the Sennett studios, and it may have been a spontaneous decision to grab some actors and cameras and go there, without even a script. In that situation, and with different actors performing in groups in different parts of the park, the duties might have been split, depending on who was available at the moment. (…) About that ending: I suppose that the spanking of a grown woman (Mabel would have been 22 at the time) is another example of ‘vulgarity’ in early slapstick – certainly it would have its titillating side for some members of the audience.”
Century Film Project

“Mabel’s eyes are expressively mischievous in Mabel’s Wilful Way. Watch her give a sly glance to the camera when she wrangles Arbuckle into paying for her ice cream cone, as if she’s bringing the viewer in on the ruse. She wasn’t the first to directly address the camera or break down that proverbial fourth wall, but what she did do was elevate the Mack Sennett brand of comedy from rambunctious knock-about shtick into a star-driven vehicle for the special talents of someone like Normand, Arbuckle and later Chaplin.
That’s not to say that Mabel’s Wilful Way is like an Ibsen play. There’s plenty of physical slapstick in the film, mostly from the mirthful girth of Mabel’s co-star, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Roscoe was a Sennett player who stood out from the crowd immediately because of two traits that in lesser men would be mutually exclusive: physical size and natural athleticism.
(…)
During pre-production, Mabel’s Wilful Way was referred to as an “Idora Park Story.” Idora Park stood as the shooting location for the entire one-reel comedy. It is such a delightful location, that it is easy to glance away from the shenanigans going on for the camera and take in the sights of Idora Park. (In one scene, you can spot a spectator in a clump of thick trees, trying to get a close look at Arbuckle performing for the camera.) The park was a Victorian-era trolley park in North Oakland, California from the 1890’s until 1929.”
Scott McGee
Turner Classic Movies

Mabel Norman

A sly glance to the camera…

>>> Mack Sennett and Mabel NormandA Tribute to Mabel Normand on this website

A Camargue Western

Coeur Ardent
R: Jean Durand. D: Joë Hamman, Berthe Dagmar, Gaston Modot. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1912
No titles
Locations: Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

“Fiery Heart, a young Indian, loves Sun Ray, the daughter of chief Sitting Bear. But Sitting Bear demands a herd of cattle from Fiery Heart. To gain Sitting Bulls approval, he attempts to single-handedly steal the herd from the neighbour tribe, almost starting a Tribal feud. Sitting Bear then realizes that Fiery Heart is a brave warrior and approves to the marriage.”
cinefest

“Not only did Europeans consume American film Westerns in large numbers; soon they were making their own. (…) Many of the thirty or so Westerns made in Britain before 1915 had Indian themes, as for example the Hepworth company’s The Squatter’s Daughter (1906), one of the very few of such films to survive. (…) The capture and rescue plot follows directly from the novels of Fenimore Cooper, from a myriad dime novels and from the narrative elements of Buffalo Bill’s show. A less lurid, more wistfully romantic view of Indians emerges in Jean Durand’s Coeur Ardent (1912), a Western shot in the south of France, in the Camargue, a wild region that passes for the American prairies. (…) The film has a real feel for the beauties of landscape and, like some American Westerns of the period, the story takes place entirely within Indian society, in an idealized world before conflict with whites. The film stars Joë Hamman, a French enthusiast of all things Western who had visited America and met Buffalo Bill. Durand and Hamman were to make several Westerns together in the period before First World War.”
Edward Buscombe: ‘Injuns!’: Native Americans in the Movies. Reaktion Books 2006

“Mit ‘Camargue-Western werden Filme vorzugsweise des Regisseurs Jean Durand bezeichnet, die zwischen 1910 und 1912 im Auftrag von Gaumont in der südfranzösischen Region der Camargue gedreht wurden. Hauptdarsteller dieser Filme war der Schauspieler Joë Hamman. Hamman hatte zuvor die USA bereist und Buffalo Bill und dessen Wild West Show kennengelernt. Als Buffalo Bill mit seiner Show nach Europa kam, wirkte Hamman sogar bei zahlreichen Auftritten mit. Diese Erfahrungen brachte Hamman in die Filme mit Durand ein. Zu den bekanntesten Camargue-Western, die auch noch erhalten sind, gehören Pendaison à Jefferson City (1911), Coeur Ardent (1912) und La Prairie en feu (1912). Typisch für den europäischen Western, wird auch hier eine allerdings europäische Landschaft verwendet, die den Wilden Westen der USA repräsentieren soll.”
Thomas Klein
Lexikon der Filmbegriffe

 

Hobart Bosworth and Jack London

Martin Eden (incomplete)
R: Hobart Bosworth. B: Hobart Bosworth, Jack London. K: George W. Hill. D: Lawrence Peyton, Viola Barry, Herbert Rawlinson, Rhea Haines, Ann Ivers, Ray Myers, Elmer Clifton. P: Hobart Bosworth Productions. USA 1914

“Hobart Bosworth — pioneering movie director, writer, producer and actor — was born Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth 1867, in Marietta, OH. He was a direct descendant of Miles Standish and John and Priscilla Alden on his father’s side and of New York’s Van Zandt family, the first Dutch settlers to land in the New World, on his mother’s side. Bosworth was always proud of his lineage.
After his mother died his father remarried and the young Hobart took a dislike to his stepmother. Convinced that he was  ‘ill used and cruelly treated’, as he told an interviewer in 1914, he ran away from home for to New York City. He signed on as a cabin boy on the clipper ship ‘Sovereign of the Seas’ and was soon out at sea. (…)
Thinking he’d like to become a landscape painter, a friend suggested that Bosworth work as a stage manager to raise the money to study art. Acting on his friend’s advice, Bosworth obtained a job with McKee Rankin as a stage manager at the California Theatre in San Francisco. With the money he made, he undertook the study of painting. Eventually he was pressed into duty as an actor with a small part with three lines. Though he botched the lines, he was given other small roles. Bosworth was 18 years old and on the cusp of a life in the theater. (…)

There was a new medium for actors: motion pictures. Bosworth moved to San Diego, which had a reputation of having the most perfect climate in the continental United States, and in 1908 was contracted to make a film by the Selig Polyscope Co. Shooting was to be down in the outdoors, and he did not have to use his voice, which was in a poor condition. The arrangement was perfect for him. ‘I believe, after all, that it is the motion pictures that have saved my life’, he recounted less than a decade later. (…) Signing with Selig, Bosworth eventually spearheaded the movie company’s move to Los Angeles. He is widely credited with being the star of the first movie made on the West Coast. Due to his role in pioneering California for the film industry, Bosworth often was referred to as the ‘Dean of Hollywood’. He wrote the scenarios for the second and third pictures he acted in, and directed the third. According to his own count, he eventually wrote 112 scenarios and produced 84 pictures for Selig. Bosworth was attracted to Jack London’s work due to his out-of-doors filming experience and the requirements of his health, which obviated acting in studios. ‘In all my reading I have never come across better material for motion picture plays than Jack London’s stories, and I hope to go right through the whole lot.’ In 1913 he formed his own company, Hobart Bosworth Productions Co., to produce a series of Jack London melodramas. He produced, directed and starred in the company’s first picture, playing Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf (1913), with London himself appearing as a sailor. (…)

He produced, directed, wrote and acted in Martin Eden (1914) and An Odyssey of the North (1914), playing the lead in the latter, which was released by Paramount. He finished up the series by producing, directing and playing the lead in the two-part Burning Daylight series: Burning Daylight: The Adventures of ‘Burning Daylight’ in Alaska (1914) and Burning Daylight: The Adventures of ‘Burning Daylight’ in Civilization (1914), both of which were released by Paramount. (…)
Altogether, Hobarth Bosworth acted in over 250 movies from 1908 to 1942, directed 44 known pictures from 1911 to 1915, and wrote 27 & produced 11 known pictures from 1911 to 1921. His actual count might be hundreds more. Hobart Bosworth, the ‘Dean of Hollywood’, died 1943 of pneumonia in Glendale, CA.”
Jon C. Hopwood
IMDb

Alfred Machin – Belgium 1914

La Fille de Delft
R: Alfred Machin. B: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeuil. D: Germaine Kaisen, Fernand Gravey, Blanche Montel, Max Péral, Henri Goidsen, Harzé, Richard. P: Pathé Frères / Belge Cinéma Film. Bel 1914
Print: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
Dutch and French titles

“This type of melodramatic love story was of course well-worn even by 1914 standards, but Machin manages to make it worthwhile and even quite touching through his controlled compositions of rural Dutch (actually Belgian) landscapes and relaxed staging practices. Surely there are also some very impressive and spectacular images to be found here (aerial views, a balloon crash, a thunderstorm, a fire), but most of the time we are invited to observe the characters walking through finely framed landscapes, past diagonal rows of tulips, past the sturdiness of the in hindsight often sinister, or cursed windmills. There are framings through windows and doorways, and characters are placed in detailed sets that allow simultaneous foreground and background action. Movements are deliberate but not rushed; we get the rhythm of life, not of dramatic development.
In Machin’s images there is always a lot to look at, as small figures can be observed moving about in the image’s distant depths. Cineteca curator Mariann Lewinsky referred to Machin’s trust in his audience’s ‘aesthetic patience’, a phrasing that I liked because there is indeed a palpable sense of the director’s faith in the subtlety of the detailed image that would please viewers. As such the rhythm between shots and within the image is comfortably slow, we can follow the story and take in its world and it never gets dull.”
Anke Brouwers: Les Trucs de Machin: La fille de Delft and Maudite soit la guerre
cinea

Maudite soit la guerre
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul, Paul Flon. D: Baert, Suzanne Berni, Albert Hendrickx, Nadia d’Angély, Henri Goidsen, Fernand Crommelyn. P: Belge Cinéma Film. Bel 1914.
Print: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
Dutch titles, Engl. subtitles

“Alfred Machin was Belgium’s preeminent director of the 1910s. He never seems to have seen a windmill he didn’t want to film, then burn down or blow up. Machin enjoyed recording Belgian folk culture, particularly village dancers, as is evident in classic one-reelers like Le Moulin maudit (The Accursed Mill, 1909), and he had a fondness for jungle cats like Mimur the leopard*. Each of the Machin features I saw shed light on my research questions. Le Diamant noir (The Black Diamond) confirmed that the European tableau style was by 1913 achieving considerable intricacy. (…) In Machin’s La Fille de Delft (The Girl from Delft, 1914), the tableau depth cooperates with some muted cutting. (…) Simpler in its drama and staging is Machin’s official classic, Maudite soit la guerre (Cursed Be War, 1914). (…) Released in May of 1914, Machin’s anti-war film now seems a futile warning. The Archive has restored the original’s Pathécolor, creating images of great loveliness. Some scenes show stenciled color, which helps articulate the planes of shots arrayed in depth. At other moments, deep red tinting enhances the battle scenes, notably one of an exploding dirigible. In all, this outstanding restoration of Maudite soit la guerre reminds us of what audiences actually saw — films of deeply felt emotion, often accentuated by spectacular action like that on display today, and employing color with both intensity and delicacy.”
David Bordwell’s website on cinema

* Machin’s Chasse à la panthère

>>> on this website: Machin in AfricaMachin – A French Director in BelgiumAlfred Machin-1Alfred Machin-2

>>> more about Maudite soit la guerre: see my essay “Als das Morden im Kino begann” on this site

Salomy Jane

Salomy Jane
R: Lucius Henderson, William Nigh. B: Bret Harte (story), Paul Armstrong (play). K: Hal Mohr, Arthur Pawelson, Arthur Cadwell. D: Beatriz Michelena, House Peters, Matt Snyder, William Nigh, Ernest Joy, Andrew Robson, Clarence Arper, William Pike, Harold B. Meade, Harold Entwistle. P: California Motion Picture Corp. USA 1914

“The visual beauty and directorial sophistication of Salomy Jane upend assumptions of what a first feature by an untried regional company ought to look like. In 1914, feature-length films were still novel, and the San Francisco boosters behind the formation of the California Motion Picture Corporation had not the slightest experience making movies. From such small companies formed that year in the West one expects the rough techniques of, say, the Los Angeles–based Oz Film Manufacturing Company or the San Antonio–based Buckhorn Film Company (…).  Instead, Salomy Jane arguably surpasses the year’s best-remembered movies from mainstream studios. (…)
Although titled for its central character, Salomy Jane is a community story, set in the summer of 1852 in, appropriately, Hangtown (a California gold-mining settlement more welcomingly renamed Placerville in 1854). The film deftly interweaves older honor violence brought from the East (a feud from Kentucky and revenge for a wronged sister) with new Western threats (a stage robbery, quick-to-lynch vigilantes, and rivalries over Salomy as a rare young woman among the forty-niners*). (…)
Playing the title role is 24-year-old Beatriz Michelena in her first film. She’d been onstage since age 11, first alongside her father, a Venezuelan immigrant and opera tenor, and by age 17 she was promoted in lead soprano roles as ‘America’s Youngest Prima Donna’. In Salomy Jane, with a hairstyle evidently borrowed from Mary Pickford, she conveys the no-nonsense independence that soon made her America’s first Latina movie star.(…)
Salomy Jane survives to give vivid witness to the flourishing of the regional feature film in the years just before the conglomeration of Hollywood.”
Scott Simmon
National Film Preservation Foundation

*The people who left their homes in search of gold were later referred to as the “forty-niners,” simply because the year was 1849. Although the exact numbers are unknown, it’s believed that around 300,000 people migrated to California during the Gold Rush.
History of California Gold Rush and The Forty-Niners